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Electoral Commission ‘misinterpreted’ Vote Leave expenses, court rules
The Electoral Commission misinterpreted EU referendum spending laws allowing Vote Leave to break them, the High Court has ruled.
Vote Leave paid £625,000 to clear bills allegedly run up by university student Darren Grimes.
The watchdog initially said it had no grounds to suspect this was a scheme to get round spending limits.
It later changed its mind and fined Vote Leave and Mr Grimes – and also referred him to the police.
The High Court agreed with the Electoral Commission finding in July that Vote Leave had broken the law, but said the watchdog had misinterpreted the rules, in the run-up to the June 2016 referendum, in advice it gave to the Leave campaign.
Vote Leave’s former chief executive Matthew Elliott said that if the Electoral Commission did not launch an appeal against the ruling it would be admitting it had given incorrect advice and should drop its fines.
Anti-Brexit campaigner and Labour peer Lord Adonis said: “It sounds to me as if the Electoral Commission has not been doing its job properly. On the face of it, it seems to have been extremely incompetent.”
He told the BBC’s Politics Live that if there was another EU referendum, which he wants to see, “we need a rather more fit and proper body to be in charge of it”.
The Electoral Commission said the High Court “arrived at the same conclusion as the Commission did in its investigation – that Vote Leave should have accounted for the expenditure on the digital services firm, AggregateIQ – although it found an additional reason for reaching that conclusion”.
The Commission’s chief executive Claire Bassett said: “The High Court has not ruled on the advice we gave to Vote Leave. Our advice was generic and covered hypothetical scenarios.
“At no point did we give any advice or discuss payments to Aggregate IQ.
“Suggestions made otherwise today on social media are categorically untrue.
“Put simply, today’s ruling states that donations from one campaign group to another are lawful, but that those donations must be declared as expenditure by the person or campaign group making the donation, if it is for a specific purpose. This is something that Vote Leave did not do.”
In his judgement, Lord Justice Leggatt said the Electoral Commission had “misinterpreted the definition of ‘referendum expenses'” as defined by the Political Parties, Elections and Referendum Act.
He added: “The source of its error is a mistaken assumption that an individual or body which makes a donation to a permitted participant cannot thereby incur referendum expenses.
“As a result of this error, the Electoral Commission has interpreted the definition in a way that is inconsistent with both the language and the purpose of the legislation.”
Vote Leave’s donation to Mr Grimes, which went straight to its Canadian digital agency AggregateIQ, should have counted as part of Vote Leave’s campaign expenses, added the judge.
“The position would have been different if the money had been given to Mr Grimes for him to use however he chose in promoting a ‘leave’ outcome of the referendum,” he added.
But the judge said there was no “rational basis” for the watchdog’s actions, which he described a “recipe for abuse” of the law.
Jolyon Maugham QC of the Good Law Project, which brought the High Court challenge, said the ruling proved the watchdog “unlawfully tilted the playing field in favour of Leave” in the 2016 referendum.
“Stronger In (the official Remain campaign) was also up against its spending limits.
“But because it didn’t get the advice from the Electoral Commission it had to stop spending. And the High Court decided that advice was wrong.”
He said “heads should roll” at the Electoral Commission over the error.
Matthew Elliott, former chief executive of Vote Leave, said the High Court ruling had “thrown electoral law for future elections and referendums into total chaos”.
“Either the Electoral Commission is wrong or the High Court is wrong.
“Should the Electoral Commission choose not to appeal this judgment, they will be admitting that they gave Vote Leave incorrect advice and they should immediately reconsider the unfair fines they are seeking to impose on us,” he added.
“Vote Leave would not have made the donations that it did, had it not been for the Commission’s clear advice.
“This whole situation is a mess of the Electoral Commission’s own making, and their defeat in the High Court today must force a rethink.
“They now have a chance to rectify their errors. They should do the right thing.”
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With an avg. 1.2M voters per MEP & Britain with 16% of EU GDP and 13% of the EU’s population yet having only 8% (if united) say, whilst holding less than 3% of the various offices within the EU Do note The EUropean Parliament has no ability to make policy and has a Commission of unelected bureaucrats, thus clearly the EU is not even a pretence of being a democracy despite its protestations!Do note that many senior apparatchicks and even elected politicians speak openly of the ‘Post Democratic era’ with no sense of shame or irony and in complete contempt of the so called electorate – yet The EU & many of its vassal States/Regions are all too willing to slaughter people in Sovereign States, to impose The EU’s chosen brand of democracy on them!
Now as President Junker announced in his ‘State of the union’ speech 2017 the aim is to create an EU military force and centralise ever more of the decision making and control!
The imposition of a Government and policies upon its vassal regions such as the peoples of Greece shows just how far from being a democracy the EU is.
Just follow the recent EU display of so called ‘Democracy’:
France and the Netherlands voted against the proposed EU constitution in 2005, only to have those votes ignored.
Ireland voted against ratifying the Lisbon treaty in 2008, but then later under pressure & threats had to change its mind.
Greece for me was the final straw. It became clear in 2015 that it didn’t matter which way the Greek people voted. The birthplace of democracy had become its tomb. That was enough. I was going to vote to leave the EU when the chance came.
No political party of any significance in Britain took active steps to achieve a Referendum – the task was eventually taken by an Indipendent West Midlands MEP Nikki Sinclaire who personally launched and funded the gathering of a petition of 225,000 signatures delivered to Parliament via Downing Street, thus forcing a debate in the House of Commons on an IN/OUT Referendum, which led to David Cameron’s first consequential rebellion.
It was due to winning that debate, officially opposed by every party including Ukip that David Cameron was forced to include a promise of an IN/OUT Referendum in the Tory Manifesto at the next General Election. The rest is history & despite no Parliamentary Party backing the OUT vote & Government spending Millions of Pounds of public money leafletting & promoting ‘Project Fear’ to try to persuade the British people to Remain just as they had at the first Referendum in 1975 – This time their lies and threats were not heeded and in the largest vote in British history Britain voted by a clear majority to Leave.
Nikki Sinclaire’s OUT result left Cameron & his co conspirator Osborne with no option but to resign, sadly some of the other traitors have remained to try to hinder progress to BreXit, aided by their corrupt allies in the EU and \eu funding and bribes!
There will be little or no change in Britain’s economic position, if we leave the EU, using a better negotiated, customised & updated version of the ‘Norway Model’ as a stepping stone to becoming a full member of the Eropean Economic Area, where all will benefit, as we secure trade relations with the EU’s vassal regions, with an EFTA style status and can trade and negotiate independently on the global stage, as members of The Commonwealth and the Anglosphere.
This is of course dependent on a modicum of intelligence on the part of Britain’s politicians and negotiators but it also requires the integrity of Parliament to uphod democracy and the integrity of EU politicuians & apparchicks to act ethically and without their normal vindictive mallice.
I believe Leaving the EU will be turned into something of a rough ride by the ignorant and the corrupt but I have no doubt that in the long run Leaving the EU will prove conclusively to be in the best interests of Britain and our true allies. I also believe that Britain leaving the EU will prove to be the catalyst to great changes within the EU and hopefully its democratisation as without great changes it is indubitably doomed.
Do not overlook the fact that politicians have plotted and schemmed since the 1950s and we have actually been vassals of the EU, when it was still using the aesopian linguistics and calling itself The Common Market in the early 1970s, a name the bureaucrats arbitrarily changed to EUropean Union in the early 1990s as they worked towards their long term goals of an ever closer centrally controlled Political and economic Union with its own anthem, currency, flag and rigid central control by its self appointed bureacrats towards a new Empirate –
It will take many years to rectify the mess our political class got us into and we have no other peacefull means by which to extricate ourselves than to depend on that self same self styled elite, who all too often forget they work for us!
One huge benefit of BreXit will be that we can negotiate with bodies like the WTO, UN, WHO, IMF, CODEX and the like, directly, in our own interest and that of our partners around the world, in both the Commonwealth and the Anglosphere at large; rather than having negotiations and terms imposed by unelected EU bureacrats and their interpretation of the rules handed down, as if they were some great achievement of the EU’s!The greatest change and benefit will be political, as we improve our democracy and self determination, with the ability to deselect and elect our own Government, with an improved Westminster structure, see >Harrogate Agenda<.
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